Alumnus, Dentist Gives Back to Mount Union Program

February 20, 2012

Dr. Ben Utterback, a 1996 graduate of the University of Mount Union and dentist in Stark County, and his staff recently spent a morning volunteering their time and dental services to students in the Dowling Mentor Program.
 
The Dowling Mentor Program at Mount Union is designed to enrich Alliance middle school and high school students’ lives by pairing them with Mount Union students for tutoring and cultural, recreational and community service activities. The Mount Union students who serve as mentors develop leadership skills, learn the value of community service and help solve society’s problems, and the mentees are able to build self-esteem, improve their academic skills and establish ideals of citizenship.

While serving as a mentor in the Dowling Mentor Program during his time at Mount Union, Utterback learned the value of community service and the importance of giving back to others and society as a whole. To him, the idea of paying it forward has since then been an integral part of his life.

“If we do nice acts and teach others, they will hopefully do the same in their own lives,” he said.
 
Utterback does indeed stay true to this value, both in his professional life and personal life. In fact, he and his staff participate in a variety of community events throughout the year including the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Walk, food collections and providing dental work for individuals at the Alliance Area Domestic Violence Shelter. Utterback also serves as the volunteer team dentist for the University of Akron men’s hockey team.   
 
“There are so many children in the area that have the necessary tools and desire to become successful but just don’t have the advice or confidence to carry out these goals. During my experience in the Dowling Mentor Program, I witnessed so many mentees gain confidence, and these same students have since then went on to graduate college and earn degrees,” said Utterback. “Not only does this program benefit the young students by having a role model with whom they meet with every week, but it also teaches the mentors themselves the value of community involvement.”
 
Utterback’s journey into the practice of dentistry isn’t as obvious as some may think. His father, Geoff, is also a practicing dentist in the area and graduate of Mount Union. Utterback originally wanted to pursue a career in the medical sciences, but not dentistry because he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. While studying biology at Mount Union, he prepared for medical school, took the MCAT and applied to several medical schools. But that career path quickly changed one day while he was at his father’s practice near campus observing him in action.
 
“I was impressed by the personal nature of his job and how well he knew his patients and vice versa,” stated Utterback.
 
Without telling his father, Utterback applied to various dental schools and ended up choosing The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. After spending four years studying at Ohio State, he returned to Stark County to practice general dentistry.
 
“I feel so lucky to have gone into the same profession as my dad,” said Utterback. “He has taught me so much about dentistry. I absolutely love my job and can't imagine doing anything else!”
 
The Dowling Mentor Program at Mount Union has been pairing students at Mount Union with students in the Alliance City Schools for nearly 30 years. For more information about the program, contact Lorie Miller, director of community educational outreach and the Dowling Mentor Program at Mount Union, at (330) 823-2047 or millerlj@mountunion.edu.
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